The government of Hungary might pull back the emergency powers that were obtained for fighting the coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak in late June, which will depend on the evolution of the pandemic, chief of staff of Prime Minister Victor Orban stated on Thursday.

In the month of March, Orban got an open-ended right to rule by decree for fighting the pandemic, which drew criticism from the rights groups, several member states of the European Union, and the European Commission in March. Orban mentioned that the special powers might be withdrawn by the Parliament, where his Fidesz party holds a majority of two-thirds, at any time.

Hungary to end emergency powers in June

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Under the legislation, anybody deemed to be deliberately spreading false information that could upset people or hinder the fight against the novel coronavirus could face up to five years in jail. "The government could give up its special emergency rights towards the end of June unless the situation (with the epidemic) changes," Orban's chief of staff Gergely Gulyas said.

He also told an online press briefing the government was considering easing restrictions in Budapest from next week due to a decline in infections. Lockdown restrictions have already been mostly lifted in the countryside. Speaking in the European Parliament, Vera Jourova, the commissioner responsible for upholding EU values and transparency, said earlier on Thursday that the EU was entering a new phase when certain measures taken to protect public health will be gradually relaxed.

"This new phase means that the general states of emergency with exceptional powers granted to governments should gradually be removed or replaced by more targeted and less intrusive measures," Jourova said. "The Commission will be very vigilant on how emergency measures which affect the rule of law, fundamental rights and democratic values are phased out in the member states ... This is even more important for Hungary given the lack of a clear time limit for the state of danger."

(With agency inputs)